Occupy movement targets foreclosed homes

Activists gather in front of 1417 10th street in West Oakland.
Shawn Gaynor

Throughout the Bay Area on Tuesday (Dec. 6), Occupy activists and housing advocates launched what they said will be an ongoing effort to place families back into their foreclosed homes, seizing bank-owned homes to put pressure on the banking industry to cooperate with homeowners in loan trouble.

In San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland, activists highlighted the nation's foreclosure crisis by occupying foreclosed homes as part of the Occupy movement's national day of action against foreclosures. Occupy Oakland activists said the tents are gone in downtown Oakland, but the move toward house occupations represents a new phase for the movement.

“I am here fighting for my home,” said Margarita Ramirez, addressing a crowd of 150 supporters at the West Oakland BART station. Ramirez said her family fell behind on their mortgage payments after her husband was laid off at the onset of the recession. The Ramirez family applied for a loan modification under the federally subsidized Home Affordable Modification Program(HAMP) hoping for some relief, but their lender, Bank of America, denied their request. Though HAMP is a federal program, it is administered though individual mortgage lenders.

According to Ramirez, with time left before her foreclosure, Bank of America urged them to explore other options to save their home. Then, inexplicably, Bank of America sold her home to Fannie Mae, leaving her family out of options despite what Ramirez says is Bank of America's later admission to the error and willingness to work with the family. Fannie Mae however has held firm that the sale was valid, leaving the Ramirez family in an uncomfortable comprise of renting their own home.

In order to pressure Fannie Mae on behalf of the Ramirez family, activists with Occupy Oakland and Just Cause seized a vacant Fannie Mae owned foreclosure at 1417 Tenth street in West Oakland.

“This house is owned by the federal government, who we pay taxes to,” said Occupy Oakland activist Thaddeus Guidry, who said that he had struggled hard to get by during the recession. As he stood over a grill cooking hotdogs for the crowd gathered in the yard of the newly occupied house, he said he had found new inspiration and hope after becoming part of Occupy Oakland.

“Tonight will be the first night here in the house,” said Guidry. “This is my home now. We hope to house eight people here.”

Fannie Mae, which was effectively foreclosed on by the U.S. Treasury in 2008 under a process know as conservatorship, has received $169 billion in federal bailout money and remains under federal control.

The house on Tenth street is modest but spacious, with electricity and water. Downstairs, Just Cause is getting ready to start an eviction defense clinic. Just Cause organizer Maria Zamudio told the Bay Guardian that the group holds regular eviction defense clinics in San Francisco and Oakland, but the freshly occupied house in West Oakland would serve as a community space that people can drop into to learn their rights.

“We have been doing eviction defense for a long time. Since the recession, we have seen a change to tenants being pressured to leave by banks after landlords lose a house to foreclosure,” said Zamudio. “It is important for tenants to know that they do not need to leave a foreclosed property. The tenant has more rights in these situations then the homeowner.”

Only blocks away, Gayla Newsome stood in front of her house at 1536 Adeline St with another crowd of supporters from Occupy Oakland, and housing advocates from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment(ACCE). She has been out of the house for six months after the foreclosure, leaving her and her children to stay with family in an overcrowded situation as the house sat vacant.

“This is the moment I take my house back. I'm a little scared, a little nervous, but I have to do this for my kids and grandkids. I have to do this for the other people who are going through this,” said Newsome.

Newsome said Chase Bank repeatedly denied receiving her HAMP loan modification paperwork. When she finally sent a copy by certified mail, they acknowledged the application and denied her eligibility in the program.

The eviction came swiftly. Unaware of the looming eviction, and believing she still had time to save her house even though Chase was outside the HAMP program, Newsome was called by her children while at work the morning of July 19.

“The kids were given 10 minutes to grab what they could before they were put on the sidewalk in their pajamas by the bank representative and the sheriff. They called me frantic,” recalled Newsome.

The recession has been hard on West Oakland. One out of 236 houses in West Oakland are in foreclosure, with many more families hard-pressed to hang on. Housing advocates say that foreclosures destabilize entire neighborhoods, as surrounding property values plummet and blight spreads.

“I'm not just here personally to reclaim my house, I'm here to say it is time to reclaim this neighborhood,” said Newsome, who laid the blame for the neighborhood's sharp decline at the feet of the banks.

Residents of the neighborhood gathered for the rally shared stories of realtors cruising the neighborhood stopping to photograph even properties that are not in foreclosure or for sale.

“This was not an accident, this is redlining,” said Nell Myhand of Just Cause about West Oakland's housing troubles.

“It's time to take this to the politicians,” said ACCE organizer Shirley Burnell. “If they are not willing to help us, then they got to go. We will take them to the streets.”

Outside, activists signed up for shifts to help defend Newsome's home from eviction, and started an emergency phone tree in case of trouble.

“The tents are gone but we are still here!” yelled an Occupy activist from the crowd as home defense clipboards circulated.

“I appreciate everyone doing this with me,” said Newsome. “That's what Occupy is all about. We will take our homes back one at a time – no, five at a time.”


And the rule of law means nothing?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

You guys have got to read the details on this... this shit is classic.

Basically, these morons decided that the best "victim" they could find was a woman who used her house as an ATM to the tune of over $600,000... and then bailed out entirely. She essentially worked the tax payers for over half a million. You guys, she refinanced 6 TIMES.

And this is the victim they chose. Profoundly stupid, lol.

Let me clear, there are plenty legit examples of predatory lending. Yet these monkeynuts with Occupy SF chose one of the most BLATANT examples of scammer out there to represent their cause. Amazing:


Posted by Longtime Lurker on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 6:38 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

I just refinanced, after 8 years of owning my home, for $110,000 less than the original loan, while taking out a mere $20,000 with $300,000 worth of equity left in my home. Why would she finance for more and more - at the end nearly three times the original mortgage - in such a short amount of time?

Someone was living WAY beyond their means. She's a perfect example of the CW which went absolutely haywire back in the 2000s.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

Or, more likely, she was running a very common fraud. Happening all across the country.

Just unbelievable in a time with countless victims of predatory banking, OWS chose *this* lady. An interesting look at the dangers of seeing all things as black/white. All banks bad, all borrowers good (especially those borrowers who may be of color).

No reason to look at the back story and research what the fuck you're actually protesting - you already know right and wrong!


Posted by Longtime Lurker on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

Lee's timing was impeccable.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 08, 2011 @ 6:29 am

She was using her home as an ATM (see below). But what the hell was the bank doing? She deserves the foreclosure. But major US banks need to be prosecuted--for stupidity.

"Ms. Richardson acquired 1479 Quesada in 1999 from John Pereira with a recorded transfer price of $215,000. In 2002, Ms. Richardson refinanced the home with a $281,250 mortgage. In 2003, Ms. Richardson refinanced the property with a new first mortgage for $318,760. And in 2004, Ms. Richardson refinanced the property with a new first for $381,000. In early 2005, Ms. Richardson added a second loan to the property in the amount of $39,750, a loan which was paid off later in the year when the property was refinanced with a $500,000 first.In March 2006, Ms. Richardson refinanced her home with a first mortgage for $556,000 to which another loan for $50,000 was added that October."

Posted by Guest on Dec. 08, 2011 @ 7:33 am

Perhaps she wasn't the most responsible borrower, but why would a bank give her a mortgage for twice the value of the home? When predatory lenders dangle free money in front of desperately poor people who are trying to keep a small business afloat, why do you commenters reserve all of your scorn for the borrower? Shouldn't the lenders who knew she wouldn't be able to pay it back, but who didn't care because they were simply packaging the mortgages into fraudulent derivatives, shouldn't they also pay a price for this situation? This woman is getting evicted, the banks got bailed out, and everyone from the loan agent to the CEOs got big commissions and bonuses. But, as usual in this troubled country, you'd all rather just blame the poor person of color -- someone clearly in need now, whatever her culpability -- rather than the 1 percenters who hatched this scheme in the first place and who have largely gotten away with it. 

Posted by steven on Dec. 08, 2011 @ 11:00 am

LOL - sister took in around $52,700 per year (if you calculate her refi checks divided by that length of time and minus 3-4% for bank fees) during her little refi mortgage spree - that is NOT "poor."

And the best thing is she didn't have to pay any of it back! In that sense she's analogous to the banks. Sure she's going to lose her house but she got a nice, cushy lifestyle for 7 years and rent-free living for three so if she had to do it all over again I have a feeling she'd accept with glee.

Had she not treated her house as an ATM she'd be in pretty good shape by now - with a nice amount of equity in her place and a loan she'd paid nearly a third of. Instead she wants the gravy train to keep on rolling. And why not? She was living large for quite a long time but now it's time to pay the piper.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 08, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

Your blindness is unparalleled. She gamed the system, and the best you can offer in response is that she was a "poor person of color"? You really do have no ability to learn from mistakes do you.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 08, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

Yet this week both Tim and Steven have tried cheap shots at it.

Not worthy.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 08, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

First. for me, Occupy SF was never just about occupying a single space but about focusing much needed attention on economic issues that have long simmered beneath the surface by many. As one occupier said yesterday, the occupy movement will move on and decide the next steps locally and globally. OWS is raising consciousness about long over due reforms in banking and the right relationship of government in protecting the poor and middle class from the vagaries of the greed and avarice of the few. The President echoed this by hardening back to Teddy, the trust busting President who helped lead the Progressive era in 1910. The muckrakers including a very young Ida TarBell took on the robber barons of their day and perhaps that is what the SF Bay Guardian is doing with its focus on the on going struggle of the Ocuppy movement.

Lees timing was not impeccable just predictable. Clear it out so that the Christmas/holiday spirit of giving, the season of sharing, can happen so we can all go on with our holiday plans without the uncomfortable feeling that we are returning to the era of Dickens.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 08, 2011 @ 7:34 am

I have had a conflict in my life: I wanted to support Occupy Wall Street (which of course I do, at least in theory) but when I tried to get involved with my local occupation (Occupy Nola in New Orleans), I always found them to be a dysfunctional group of clowns, a fuckin' circus sideshow of absolute losers (here's what the local press had to say about them, reporting the scene from their eviction: http://bit.ly/occupynola

But then, to read the fun you all are having with this refi-babe!!!

Posted by mark on Dec. 18, 2011 @ 12:37 am


"A concern troll is a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the user claims to hold. The concern troll posts in Web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group's actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed "concerns". The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group."

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 18, 2011 @ 3:59 am

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